Observers and Performers: On “Life and People” at BAMcinematek

Written by Conor O’Brien

The films discussed were shown at “Shorts Program: Life and People,” during BAMcinématek‘s 2014 Migrating Forms series. 

Jon Rafman, "Mainsqueeze" (still), 2014

Jon Rafman, “Mainsqueeze” (still), 2014

Jon Rafman’s film “Mainsqueeze” opens with a washing machine in a backyard. The machine starts to cycle. The familiar rattling din as its innerchamber spins, a common enough sound now, this comforting chorus of appliances, dishwashers, ovens, boilers, toilets, the white noise that (no, not at all secondary or incidental to their “intended” functions) keep sedated blank silence, cooed into coiled submission under the mothering hum. Soon the sound grows from the familiar to the discomforting, blooms from an innocuous, mechanical buzz into an hominoid, earthen growl. The machine is pushing its rotation to increasingly violent extremes. The frame becomes unhinged and loosely wobbles about the innerchamber’s fierce convulsions. As parts of the outerstructure are cast off, it is only this, the innerchamber, that still belongs to the “washing machine,” the idea of it, the limp frame having lost all identity and coherence in the mad self-destruction. Soon, even the gaping core of the appliance loses this center of control in a final burst of intensity. It collapses, and lies still in the silent backyard.

The full video, which is returned to repeatedly during Rafman’s film, could be at home in (and was most likely taken from) the Internet’s video landscape, populated in large part by such documentations of home experiments. Does the sadistic destruction of household appliances speak to a pent-up frustration with the ease and sterility of the modern experience? Is it a lashing out at the mask of convenience that, with one finger to its lips, shh’s our primal anxieties into an uneasy quiet? Is it the basis of all spectacle and theater, tragedy and comedy, the perverse thrill of seeing the shimmering and godlike erode into profane parody? To locate on these seemingly-enclosed and stone-perfect systems an obscene, belching hole? Rafman’s film continues: iphone snapshots of teens unconscious at parties with horrifically Sharpie-marred faces, images of devils and demons from the various Infernos of classical painting, a woman lovingly caressing a large prawn-like creature before setting it under her foot to crush it in callous close-up, a person in a frog costume bound to a table writhing, the unsettling musings of an inhuman voice-over. In this barrage of grotesque sadism, the film could come off as invariably bleak: an indifferent, robotic distillation of human behavior rummaged from the Internet’s shadowier nooks. Yet, there is something behind that, perhaps compassion, but maybe just pity, for the hopelessly abusive and self-destructive creatures it depicts.

Barry Doupé, "Life and People" (still), 2014

Barry Doupé, “Life and People” (still), 2014

 

The camera is the disembodied eye, functioning with the unblinking, clinical lucidity reserved for ghosts and machines. The camera itself disappears in the film illusion, never to be caught by its own gaze: even that image, the one that passed there on that polished, silver ovoid, that looked strikingly like a camera, though distorted by the convex surface, is not the Camera. This anti-Narcissus, completely unmoved by its reflection, does not identify itself as part of the scene it observes. It is not fooled by make-up, costumes, sets, performance; it will not be drowned in the illusion. Film is a product of an argument between subjective human performers, in their manic, self-mutilating frenzy, and this uncaring, alien Eye.

In Barry Doupé’s “Life and People,” the performers, paradoxically, seem to take on the perspective of the Camera in that, though they performing in the scene, none seem to have an emotional/psychological/economic stake in it. They are vessels for the delivery of dialogue that, because of misplaced facial expression and lack of eye contact between players, is always disconnected from the speaker and unperceived by the spoken-to, existing in a neutral auditory realm that is only intercepted by the Camera and the audience. All of the action takes place in a unidentified location, seemingly a warehouse that is partially obscured by several white walls. The film consists of a series of discontinuous scenes, ranging from the utterly mundane (parent-teacher conferences, open houses, gossip, various consumer situations) to the tragic (sexual abuse, suicide), all delivered in the same robotic disinterest, a vague approximation of human interaction. The situations are made more alien by the choreography: players stand in random relations to each other: sometimes too close or far away, facing in different directions, some characters climb a ladder in order to deliver their lines without relevant reason. The film concludes with a woman lying on her side in the center of the shot. She remains motionless while arguing with another woman outside the frame, and over the course of the argument, the camera, disinterested, revolves around the woman, closes in on the back of her head, and then returns to its original position. This final scene brings together all the techniques of disconnection used throughout the film. There is disconnection on every level: setting, choreography, cinematography, delivery, facial expression, no element interacts with or relates to any other element. This is the perspective of the removed Eye, the Camera, which without emotional investment, perceives the scene as a collection of disparate contrivances that never resolve into a coherent illusion.

Jeremy Shaw, "Quickeners" (still), 2014

Jeremy Shaw, “Quickeners” (still), 2014

 

The interplay of disinterested observer and delusional performer is further dramatized in the final film of this shorts series, “Quickeners” directed by Jeremy Shaw. The piece takes the form of a faux-documentary film reel from a future after the extinction of homo sapiens and the emergence of our evolutionary successors, “quantum humans.” The film is from the perspective of these quantum humans, who are an immortal, hive-mind species, and the subject of the film is the disease “Human Ativism Syndrome.” HAS is described as causing in victims a reversion to the obsolete behaviors of their human ancestors. The documentary focuses on a certain group of HAS victims who have embraced their disease, and try to tap into the ritualistic delusions it induces in order to experience something called a “Quickening,” which is a kind of orgasmic trance caused by a feeling of disconnection from the Hive. The deathless quantum humans have transcended the need for ritual, performance, music, dance, etc, all of which reemerge in the Quickeners’ meetings and are contextualized by a monotone narrator for the quantum audience who may not understand the absurd customs. Part of the ritual involves the handling of a poisonous snake, which creates a “simulacrum threat of death,” recalling the mortality of the ancestors they intend to imitate. The narrator emphasizes the importance of the serpent, expounding on its ubiquity in global culture and its varied symbolic meaning. The serpent becomes a unifier, bringing into the same symbol opposing associations: at one side it is corruption, sickness, sin, evil and on the other medicine, health, intelligence, ingenuity. Maybe most significantly the serpent is the ouroboros, symbol of life-death-rebirth infinitely looping, the self-consuming, self-regenerating system.

This is the image of life and death in intimate concert, the supreme opposite resolution. The “simulacrum of death” in ritual is of vital significance: if ritual is a performance of life, than death too, with its unblinking glass eye, must be reflected somewhere on the mirror. More than this, ritual is a movement beyond death, which is no more graspable to us than to any hypothetical immortal being. Only the threat of death, a withdrawing shadow, is available to us: past this we make assumptions, create symbols, take faith-leaps. But there is always that threat, reflection flickering time to time in the corner of our vision, and when we turn to face it, gone, save a lingering absence. It is this tormenting ghost that induces our sadomasochistic obsessions. It is before this featureless, stone gaze we perform the scrimmage of our annihilation. It is to this icey lab-table we strap ourselves, awaiting the scalpel’s descent. This is the true Camera, of which every other camera is a distorted reflection. Film, a death-ritual, teaches us that the act of living is necessarily self-destructive, just as self-destruction is necessarily regenerative, and every film is indicative of the infinite performance before the true Camera: but onto what blank screen, and into what theater, reeking of artificial butter, white noise of wrapper-cracks and mechanical humming, is this Film projected? By what silent audience watched?

PROFILE: Chris Hund of PAXICO RECORDS.

Words and photos by Alexandra Blair

IMG_1756

Above: Chris Hund with his tape duplicator, the Kingdom One Touch, from the early days of PAXICO RECORDS

This week, The Living Gallery caught up with Chris Hund, the enigma behind Bushwick-based Paxico Records. The label currently includes an eclectic roster of international artists and collaborators who engage in multimedia explorations of art and sound. 

Despite an imposing catalog of nearly 30 releases, the label has humble beginnings–Paxico Records actually grew out of a multimedia thesis project Hund undertook while studying photography at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2009.

“I decided I wanted to do a project about a fake musician, so I started making an archive about this person’s life and wrote a little backstory,” says Hund, now 28.  “I started making different pieces of memorabilia and folklore and as I was making the story I decided the character, Sicil, needed a label to be on. I just decided on a whim I’d call it Paxico, which is the town i’m from in Kansas. It’s super small–population 200–but it meant home to me.”

IMG_1762  IMG_1824

IMG_1764  IMG_1811

ABOVE: Early artifacts from the life of Sicil Vibration aka Sic Vibe, the musician Hund brought to life for his thesis project at RISD.

Hund was responsible for creating an origin myth for the mysterious musician and fleshing it out with both physical artifacts, like those pictured above, and digital content. “Part of [the project] was propagating the folklore online about this artist and having other personalities come into the conversation and say ‘I heard about this guy!’” Hund posted his own music in Sicilian Vibration Youtube videos and on the artist’s MySpace page and even created fake accounts and blogs to leave feedback and instigate a conversation. Eventually, Hund says, people began to take notice.

“Friends of mine started approaching me and saying ‘Dude, you have a record label and you’re not going to let me be on it?’ So,” Hund says, “I just started building up those same stories about my friends.” Paxico has since grown to be an eclectic label known for producing, above all else, authentic music.

Since relocating to Brooklyn after graduation, Hund has approached every endeavor with a similar process to that which birthed the now-legendary Sicil Vibration and describes each release as “a blend of reality [and] mythology around the music and the artists.” Take PAXICO’s first official release, KVZE‘s ..The Smudge Specialist.. whose mythology includes a radical cosmic journey: “This 16 track collection was recently excavated by a Mars rover and after being brought back to earth and inspected, the tape was found to be harvesting a rich variety of new and exotic Smudges. The Smudges and tape soon were given by an anonymous space explorer to Paxico Records’ shaky hands.”

Back in the days of those first releases, Hund undertook every part of the production process, from dubbing the tapes on his TELEX ACC-2000 XL and printing the j-card inserts to distributing the finished product.

IMG_1784

ABOVE: Hund in his production studio-cum-bedroom in his Bushwick abode (BELOW).

IMG_1713

IMG_1818

Paxico’s latest releases have involved a mix of outsourced and in house production with each choice depending on what will best suit each artist’s myth and vision. After nearly five years of heading Paxico, Hund says things have gotten much easier. “I’ve hit, kind of, a groove now,” he says, which has allowed him to expand the scope of the label’s mythology and folklore to include clothing, zines, and more elaborate packaging. “With each release, I try to figure out something new to do so it doesn’t get boring.”

IMG_1728IMG_1726

ABOVE: Paxico’s latest release “Cave Art” by the DJM Trio comes packaged with a ritual candle to help guide listeners into the cave. The tape and its liner notes feature Hund’s original pixel folk art. Releases from this year also included such thoughtful oddities as a custom designed handkerchief and a temporary tattoo of an artist’s grade school photograph (all available through the Paxico website). 

“I enjoyed making the stuff all by hand in the beginning. Then I started to try new production techniques by sending it out, printing on thicker board with fold out J-cards, and stuff like that,” says Hund. “Now that I’ve figured out that process I’m ready to use that knowledge to go back and do it all myself again.”

Above everything, Hund maintains that Paxico is a labor of love. Unlike most other labels, profits are split evenly with the artists and much of Hund’s take is put back into the next release. “I just try to take care of the artists and put out cool stuff,” he says.

—————————–

Although running the label has cut down the amount of time he can dedicate to his own music, Paxico has given Hund the opportunity to further his efforts in the visual arts.  “I’ve always been really interested in folk art both visually and with music,” says Hund. “I think a lot of what I do stems from there.”

Using a pixel art app on his iPhone, Hund draws from an eclectic melange of visual influences to create works like those pictured below.

hands  Scene2  pb-flamingo

ABOVE: Hund’s pixel art. “I’ve always really like quilts, folk art, and geometric art. It kind of turned out to be that pixel art was a really nice meld of those things because I could get a lot of primitive forms and focus a lot more on color.” Artwork courtesy of the artist, see more on Hund’s Instagram

“When I first started doing the music for the Paxico project, I was making around 5 beats a day. That’s all I really wanted to do. Then, through working on the label and putting out other friends of mine that I thought were more deserving, music took the backburner. I could make time to do that,” Hund says, “but I’m just having more fun focusing on the visual and production side.”

Hund has been using his designs for Paxico ever since. “I think it makes a lot of sense with our philosophy of futurism and folklore.“

IMG_1834

ABOVE: Hund at his Bushwick home.

Between his responsibilities with the label, his job as an app developer, and his own art practice, Hund keeps busy, getting help from his roommates with whom he often collaborates. The house frequently hosts Paxico gatherings, including their raucous POWWAWs—gatherings that center around live streams of recording artists performing from behind lush visual projections.

DSC00162

ABOVE: Suzi Analogue performing at Paxico’s most recent internationally-streamed POWWAW for which Hund creates projections.  Photo courtesy of Chris Hund.

——————————-

The label’s next release, a SIGMUND Washington tape, will be out sometime early next year and will premiere at a release party in Philadelphia on January 30. While the majority of the releases to date have been on cassette tape–which Hund considers to be a folk medium for its accessibility–with intermittent digital features, the label will be aiming for vinyl releases in the near future.

Also in the works is a 24 hour powwaw livestream that will leap frog all over the world, showcasing Paxico artists playing live in their respective cities. “It will potentially start in Japan, go to Paris, possibly London, then New Zealand, then New York, and then to the West Coast,” says Hund. “We’ve built up a pretty great network of artists.”

*

——————————–

*

Anything and everything PAXICO can be found at the Paxico Records website and on the label’s Facebook page.

Living Gallery and CAMBA’s December Coat Drive

 

In lieu of the plummeting temperatures this winter season, The Living Gallery partnered with CAMBA to host a coat drive to bring cold weather clothing to those in need. Here are some highlights from our coat drive earlier this month and ways you can continue to help throughout the winter season.

_DSC0019

 

_DSC0026

Living Gallery owner Nyssa Frank (center) with CAMBA’s Dara Crowder (left) and Christina Hoodho (right).

_DSC0033

CAMBA’s Art Therapist and Recreation Supervisor, Christina Hoodho (pictured above) organized a group outing for the women of the shelter. At the event, women were able to sort through donations and get suited up for the cold winter weather.

The coat drive marked the second collaboration between the gallery and CAMBA. As Hoodho noted, many of the women present at the coat drive had also participated in BYO Art, held earlier this year, which gave participants in the shelter’s art program the opportunity to display work in a gallery setting.

_DSC0035

 

_DSC0045

Despite the overwhelming success of the coat drive, Hoodho noted that the shelter is still in need of all heavy winter clothing, especially larger coats–sizes Extra Large and up. Due to limited storage space, the shelter will only be able to accept donations that are most needed and those interested in donating should contact Hoodho via the contact info listed below:

Christina Hoodho, MA, ATR-BC, LCAT

Recreation Supervisor/ Art Therapist

CAMBA Broadway House
718-453-4870 X24237
christinah@camba.org

Holiday Flea at Saint Vitus!

Written and photographed by Alexandra Blair

Last night was the holiday flea market at Saint Vitus in Greenpoint featuring a thorough roster of local artisans and vendors across a smattering of mediums. Support locally made and curated goods this season and check out some of the highlights below in case you missed it!

IMG_1641

IMG_1522

Courtney Gamble of MessQueen

IMG_1540

Dana Glover, Illustrator

IMG_1545

Handmade ornaments by Siren Sewing

IMG_1563

Genavieve White of Candy Drip

IMG_1581

Amazing hand thrown ceramics by Garrett DeLooze of DeLooze Pottery

IMG_1568

Nathaniel Shannon, photographer.

IMG_1589

Some delicious offerings by Dualiteas

IMG_1597

Embroidered pillows, handmade by Meagan Colby of Pillow Baby

IMG_1613

Melissa Litwin of A Limitless Win getting crafty.

IMG_1514

The next installment of the flea will be sometime near Valentine’s Day with details to follow. In the meantime, you can find more information about the vendors at this year’s holiday flea on the Saint Vitus Facebook page.

Response to “Integument” at Wayfarers Gallery

Written by, Conor O’Brien

Images taken from “Integument” by Scott Saunders at Wayfarers Gallery, 1109 Dekalb. The term “integument” is defined in the press release as ” something that covers or encloses; especially :  an enveloping layer (as a skin, membrane, or cuticle) of an organism or one of its parts.”

1          2

See the object. Peck through stiff yet fragile walls and discover within a vital and vulnerable embryo, a universe of potential forms. Intricate labels frame our perception, a translucent skin of microscopic width separating, categorizing, and keeping every individual thing self-contained, to overripen with associations. These associations extend deeper than the psyche, engraining themselves physiologically, producing pleasure from the harmonious and repulsion at the contradictory. Preventing interactions between incompatible forms is perhaps less neurotic than hygienic, and descends from a fundamental phobia of disease and physical corruption that creates the need to classify certain things as clean and others as unclean or untouchable: a projection onto the object world the sanctity of separateness we desire to preserve of ourselves. Contact with an object increases the potential for bacterial invasion and violation, parasitic growth, and decomposition of sanctity. Thus everything is kept divided and ordered, classified by genre, style, era, family, kingdom, feathers, scales, fur. The minutest transitional stage in the metamorphosis of each being is tracked and tagged to prevent the existence of undocumented intermediary stages.The reality of one object is secluded from that of another object, and cases permitting transgression or crosscontamination (i.e. food preparation and consumption) are monitored and ritualized.

6                                       9

8                    7

Encountering an object that is unclassified, unrecognizable, or intermediary is a call to either reel the object under a broad umbrella or else invent another term and begin the growth of a new chain of associations. There is pressure to closely monitor one’s own development, to rein the shifting spectrum of one’s personality into a predetermined identity, aligned with one group and disassociated from another, and if need be, resituate oneself once shifted too far outside an identity previously established. Despite such efforts, everything sits uncomfortably at the edge of its every classification, whether externally or self imposed. No matter how complex the definition, everything is only half-defined; some aspect always falls beyond the frame. In these unaccountable margins all things seep into each other without oversight. Here, where things mix and intermingle is it possible to pick at the contextual skin and peel it off, at least partially, and reveal the object returned to embryonic form, unobscured by the walls that make it separate, sterile, static.

5

Short Response to “Traffic” at Pseudo Empire

Written by Conor O’Brien

Pictures are of the video installation “Traffic” by Elizabeth Orr, on display at Pseudo Empire (467 Troutman St.) until Oct. 5th. 

2

The gasoline powered procession, wrinkled land starched by pavement, the sun stifling white. A daily spectacle: long automotive limbs unravel in yawning exodus; steel  in carbon exhaust and billowing sunheat; an awakening, a resurrection. Organic material broken down into excremental chaos, siphoned from the earth’s stomach and injected into engines, reanimated in the agitation of pistons, a mechanical necromancy. Air-conditioned chambers fed on primordial foam, digested and redigested, spew fumes that flower into a hazywhite and metallic sky. A dull guiding light sits above them during their transmigration. They file into the city, fill its hollows with quivering activity, bring its stone-body from sleep into being. They feel excitedly the pressure of flat surface from every side. They offer themselves pregnant with energy, expanding and bursting in hot yellow clouds, sending smoke to scale the length of skyscrapers. It is a delirious expenditure, a harvest. Their language is purely mathematical: it is an anti-language: the language of tongues to which everything tastes of metal: a language that delights in its own desecration. Where among them is an unapologetic imagination? In steam and steelheat a dough rises; it lifts its shape above dark thighs of river and, tilting toward night, freezes into a glacier of salt. This is their offering.  And at evening as the immediacy of experience thins to wave and mist, still droning in  red ears, they descend and sleepily shelve themselves back into traffic.

 

1

ALLEY ART completes nationwide tour at THE LIVING GALLERY

 

This article originally appeared in full on BostonMagazine.com on Aug 25 2014: http://goo.gl/xowQK9

This summer, friends Jen Charboneau and Bernie McNerney have been touring the country coast to coast, setting up pop-up art events in 14 major cities as part of their community arts project titled “Alley Art.” On Sunday Aug 24th, they made their 13th stop in Boston, where they set up shop near SoWa along Albany Street and encouraged passersby to paint on a pair of blank canvases.

“We stop people and tell them to paint with us for five minutes and take a break from their usual routine. Most of the time people really value that—getting a break from their day-to-day life to get a creative outlet,” says McNerney, who handles public relations, photography, and videography for the project. “They leave really happy and smiling. They leave recharged.”

Event in Portland, OR

Following a stop in each city, Charboneau, an artist who met McNerney a few years ago while they were teaching English in South Korea, touches up the community-created paintings to turn them into more cohesive pieces. When the pair reaches their final destination in New York City, the paintings will go on display at The Living Gallery in Bushwick. Eventually, one painting from each city will be donated to the venue that hosted an “Alley Art” pop-up, while the other will go up for auction. Following the tour, Charboneau and McNerney also plan to create an art book filled with images of the paintings and photographs they took along the way of people they approached and asked to pose with an empty painted frame—”the ultimate icebreaker,” as they call it.

Event in Philadlephia-2

The tour started in Charboneau’s hometown of Minneapolis in mid-May, funded by $10,000 raised from a Kickstarter campaign. They travel aboard a green Subaru dubbed “Scooby Doo,” packed with art supplies and their mascot “Frank,” an animal skull that Charboneau had found on previous travels in a desert in the West. Along the way, they’ve met strangers, local artists, and musicians, including Grouplove in Las Vegas and Portugal The Man in Portland, Oregon. Pop-ups usually take place in community spaces, coffee shops, or bookstores in the major cities, and Charboneau and McNerney were excited about setting up alongside the SoWa Open Market.

“It all stems from getting the community involved with the arts instead of standing back,” says Charboneau. “We try to find neighborhoods that are artistic or neighborhoods that may be lacking that community connection.”

Event in Philadelphia 2

Charboneau and McNerney were especially pleased with setting up shop under the I93 Expressway after speaking to Elizabeth Cahill, the director of social media for SoWa Boston, about plans to turn the space into a full-blown art park.

“The potential to be involved with something that I could see growing to be a core community spot where people can go appreciate art is great,” says Charboneau. “Even if it is a little slow today, it’s a good way to be a part of something that’s growing as we’re growing as well—two newborn projects working together.”

Untitled

Friday September 12th 7-10pm [Opening Reception]

Saturday September 13th 3-9pm

Sunday September 14th 12-3pm

Full event details: http://bit.ly/alleyfinal

 

Meet Brigette Blood

Interview by Mike Garcia

Hello Brigette, Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m from Jeffersonville, Vermont, grew up above my hardworking/hippie/catholic parents’ log cabin restaurant. Besides serving food, the restaurant hosted Art and weirdos and musicians, along with tourists and locals. I graduated from Bard College with a degree in Experimental 16mm film. I moved to my Bushwick Home in 2003.

I worked the 7am breakfast shift, 6 days a week in a diner on broadway for 2 and 1/2 years when I first moved here. I loved getting to know my neighbors and my community over hard work and breakfast specials every morning. I still know many neighbors coffee preferences. For a few years after I built electronics (synthesizers and effects pedals) locally in the neighborhood. For the past 5 years I’ve worked as a nanny with a variety of other creative and domestic works in my past. Bushwick remains a big part of my life and my daily routines.

 brooklyn paper- grahamThe Brooklyn Paper, Ms. Graham

 

How did the North West Bushwick Community Group start? What were the circumstances and how did it gain momentum so quickly?

NWB formed out of the Bushwick Communities’ opposition to the proposed re-zoning and development at the former Rheingold Brewery Site (specifically the Read properties ULURP application).  We have continued as a group engaged in housing justice, land use, and local community needs.

I think we were able to gain momentum quickly for a number of reasons. We were a diverse group of residents and locally active individuals who were able to clearly and cohesively voice our opposition and our goals. Social media helped for sure.

 Individual residents’ efforts were incredible in bringing the group forward and galvanizing the Community. Individuals engaging in outreach and sharing news with their neighbors and bodega clerks was a big part of what kept new energy coming and group momentum going. But I think we owe a lot to the many groups and organizations that core founding contributors were able to engage in our early formation. These groups were able to spread awareness, share resources, and skills that allowed the group to grow capacity and continue our efforts.

Some of the groups that were part of building our NWB momentum in the early Rheingold ULURP outreach and Advisory Panel Formation days were: The Silent Barn, Rheingold Homeowners Association, BEAN, The Living Gallery, The New School, and COHSTRA.

 Also I’ll go there- I think the truth the group was calling out resonated with residents, local groups, nonprofits, city agencies, and elected officials. The truth we spoke and the justice and accountability we called for kept the group focused and determined to keep engaging and doing the hard work.

Brooklyn Brief -TaubMeeting in Express Yourself Barista Bar, The Brooklyn Brief, M. Taub

 

How do you think the NWB and the community changed the outcome of the Rheingold re-zoning?

That’s hard to say exactly. I can say post-Rheingold, Bushwick is a Community much richer in housing and land use knowledge. And this will ideally serve community interests well in our current Community Based Rezoning by CM Reynoso. I also feel the level of clarity and dissatisfaction we communicated in our Panelist meetings with the developer ultimately contributed to the increase in affordable housing at Rheingold and the final negotiations to transfer 7 lots of land from the developer to the Community (to be developed into Low Income Senior Housing). These are major mitigations from the developer and Bushwick will benefit from these increases. As well as other community funding for schools and anti displacement legal services.

 bmb and bkrotsBrigette and BKROT (photo by R. Peperone)

Has it been challenging making sure that the developers come through on their promises from negotiations with the community? Is this a constant ongoing thing?

 This is difficult and a constant on going thing. With the Read development at Rheingold, CM Reynoso formed a Community Construction Committee to monitor the project and the timeline for mitigations to be implemented.  Without binding legal commitments, an informed and engaged Community is what ultimately holds developers to their promises.

 What, if any, are some organizations that NWB have linked up with? 

 Early in our formation NWB was supported with Educational Workshops and Urban Planning/Housing Expertise from Students & Faculty from The New School, Masters Program in design & urban Ecologies and members of COHSTRA. I participated in a COHSTRA documentary for an upcoming Fall ’14 MOMA Exhibition.

Ongoing, and during our a Rheingold Campaign, NWB worked with local non profits (Make the Road NY, CUFFH, Los Sures, St. Nicks Alliance, EWVDCO), Community Board 4, CM Reyna & CM Reynoso, Urban Justice Center,  and Brooklyn Legal Services Corp. A. We have done a few events with the symbiotic support of Educated Little Monsters, youth group. We are hoping to form a local coalition with NAG.

What are some current and future projects the NWB is working on?

We are gearing up for the Beta Launch on 8/19 of our Mapping Project, a NWB collaboration with Michael Ziggy Mintz. It’s an exciting tool for communities, organizations, and tenants. I’m really interested in the potential of participatory data sets to track changes not successfully measured by city and public data as well as to humanize the data that holds Communities’ stories of change and displacement.

Housing Justice is complex and NWB is excited to help share opportunities to learn and engage! On 9/28 we are co-presenting an exciting educational opportunity from COHSTRA & The New School with local hosts Saint Joseph’s Church and the Silent Barn. I’m excited to learn with my neighbors about NYC housing history, climates, and possible solutions. Presented by some rad academic friends. Come learn too!

We have other long term projects in the works but I tend to ramble and I’m trying to keep everything here concise as I can…

NWB Logologo by Sarah Quinter

 

What ways can local activists become involved with NWB?  What’s the best way to keep up to date and find out information on NWB?

Check out our website www.NWBcommunity.org, it has links to our calendar, and google group so you can stay in touch. Come to an Every-other-Monday NWB Community Meeting and join our conversations. NWB Monday Meetings are also a great forum to meet other Community members interested in learning and being active engaged neighbors. Feel free to bring initiatives to the group as well as join ongoing NWB work. All skills welcome.

REVIEW: Space Between Languages: Thoughts on “Space Fiction and the Archives” at Momenta Art and “Same Same” at Jackie Klempay Gallery

Written by Conor O’Brien

Picture 1

At the center of Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen’s show “Space Fiction and the Archives” at Momenta Art is a UFO Landing Pad constructed in St. Paul, Alberta, in 1967, Canada’s centenary. Nguyen, a research based artist whose work investigates the “unnoticed political relevance of seemingly trivial historical anecdotes,” reconstructs this event within the gallery space using archival artifacts: newspaper articles, commemorative memorabilia, photography, and a film montage.

Picture 6

The presence of the Landing Pad itself feels subdued, while the political and cultural climate that prompted its installment is foregrounded. Less about the Landing Pad than its implications: the intersection where the hokey good will of the project and political reality cross, blend into each other, reveal their discrepancy. During the video montage entitled “1967: A People Kind of Place,” there is a moment, taken supposedly from a television promotion of the Landing Pad, where an actor playing an immigration official talks to a figure, unseen beyond the camera frame, and explains that the quotas for people of different races do not include “green men.” What is meant as a light, self-deprecating jab about the inadequacy of immigration services in dealing with actual “aliens” holds a political reality about how these services control the inflow of people based on race.

Picture 3

The artist seems interested in such cases where an awareness of social problems are discovered where they are not expected or intended, a fruitful task amidst the contrived idealism and patriotism of a country’s centennial anniversary. The Landing Pad waits passively, like an altar, the reception of otherworldly forms, while on another wall of the gallery are copies of Canada’s immigration regulations, the guidelines by which it is determined who may enter the country based, among other things, on occupation, age, usefulness.

Picture 4

The Landing Pad can be understood as a symbol of openness, multiculturalism, universality, etc; or it can be seen as simply exaggerating the border between our world and an unfamiliar one, just as the immigration process defines more acutely feelings of foreignness in those who cross from one bordered space into another. More accurately, it represents not either but both of these things: it is the overlap of the ideal goal, understood as being unreachable, i.e. attracting visitors from other planets, and the immediate economic goal, i.e. attracting tourists from other places on earth. Both goals, lofty and material, are evoked here.

Picture 2

Text flashes on the screen: “Science Fiction is Descriptive Not Predictive.” The value of sci-fi as a genre is not an imagining of possible realities but a reimagining of the existing reality. Extraterrestrials are almost always depicted as supreme beings, and supreme beings are almost always conceived as a means of observing ourselves from a higher perspective, and within a wider context. A parallactic reality: the angle where two perspectives either meet or split off: how we see ourselves and how we are seen (how we imagine we are seen): a resounding dissonance, constant, unheard.

Picture 7

* * *

Picture 6

Sarah Sieradzki’s show Same Same at Jackie Klempay Gallery is based upon the linguistic concept “code switching,” the practice of switching between languages within a conversation. Those who enter another community must soon adopt a new way of communicating, a new way of navigating the structure. In some cases, two parties not fluent in each others’ language develop a neutral mixed language in order to communicate. Code-switching assumes both parties are fluent in all languages used in conversation; each language is kept separate and distinct, the speaker’s consciousness evenly divided between these different valves of expression.

Picture 1

In our native languages, we build a world of familiarity: create patterns, narratives, causes, effects, orders, borders. From this space we reach outside and bring external events into our orbit: a geocentric existence. When we cross from this space into an unfamiliar one, where there are other patterns, other orbits, other gravitational centers, the effect seems at first to be distortive: going from a place of seeing, an active position, to a place of being seen, a passive position.

Picture 5

Sieradzki’s work simulates this split-perspective: she photographs the simple, geometric familiarity of tablecloths and using mirrors she produces wavelike distortions in the patterns. Her works are products of combining two mediums: the camera which sees and captures the outside world, and the mirror which receives and reflects it. Confronted with the mirror, where one is both seer and seen, the once sure lines falter; borders fade and bend, reveal their fragile malleability; patterns taper into a blank sea. Sieradzki’s work captures the oscillations of a mind divided between an inner and outer perspective: the former confident and personal, ordered and comprehensible; the latter unfamiliar and impersonal, where pattern no longer contextualizes and conceals negative space, but in its arbitrariness accentuates the indefinite depths.

Picture 3

Language is a medium, like a camera or a mirror, for processing external phenomena. To familiarize oneself with only one language, or medium, also means to be confined within the parameters of that language, and paradoxically, to not actually be familiar with that language at all, because one lacks a sense of its limits. In acquiring a new language (referring not only to written/oral language, but to any code, behavior, shibboleth) one gains a certain vantage point above one’s native language and the acquired one: developing an awareness of the contours of each language, the range of experience they are able to map; as well as the negative spaces between each language, where is glimpsed the limitless inadequacy of these or any language to encompass entirely one’s experience, the area where all divisions, including language, between spaces and people are arbitrary.

Picture 4

Interview with Sean McCarthy

Interviews

 

Sean McCarthy is a New York based stand up comedian living in Bushwick. Every month he hosts The Major Major Show, a showcase of local comedians at Molasses Books. His first comedy album can be downloaded  free from his website.

First, speak a bit about your background. What lead you to comedy? What kind of material are you drawn to and why do you think comedy is the best way to address that material?

I was sort of a class clown type when I was younger. In high school my friend dared me into doing an open mic which was fortunate since I was such an introvert I don’t know when I would have started on my own. After that I was hooked.

My favorite material is the kind that is funny while also presenting the comedian’s world view, even if it’s one I disagree with. I love when I can watch a stand up and laugh and then think about things that hadn’t occurred to me before. Hearing George Carlin talk about religion entirely changed the way I thought about it.

Comedy is entertainment and entertainment is a great way to convey ideas mainly because it’s not boring. You can talk about literally whatever you want and have people listen as long as you can make it funny.

You have a joke about politics being boring in order to keep people from paying attention (sorry for the poor paraphrasing). Do you use comedy as a means to get people to pay attention to things that have an effect on them?

Politics are boring because in a republic the rich can’t control the masses through fear so instead they have to find ways to make them divided and indifferent. I use comedy to try to talk about the things I see but I don’t hold any serious desire to raise awareness or change things with comedy, I just want to make people laugh with the kind of stand up I most enjoy.

You mentioned George Carlin. Carlin is a great a example of a comedian who’s able to entertain without compromising his ideas. As a comic who’s drawn to this type of material, do you find it difficult to strike a balance between entertainment and ideas without one distracting from the other, or do you find they naturally go together?

To me there is no conflict because entertainment is always supreme. I do this because I want to make people laugh and everything else has to be secondary to funny. It’s great when I can discuss what I feel is an important issue through comedy but I’d rather write a funny bit about something meaningless like shampoo bottle labels than some big political joke that is interesting but unfunny.

How did the Major Major Show come into fruition? What were your intentions for the show in the beginning?

I moved to Bushwick a little more than a year ago and heard about Molasses Books through a friend. I visited it a few times and it seemed like a really cool spot to put on a show so I messaged the owner and I’m thankful he was excited about the idea. A lot of New York based stand ups live in Bushwick now but there’s not as many shows or open mics in this area. My hope was just to provide a good, intimate comedy show not only for the comedians who live in the area but for the other people who are just moving out here. There’s so much great stand up in New York and most of it can be seen for free so I think everyone who lives here owes it to themselves to check it out.

Venues for other art and entertainment related events seem to increase here daily, but, like you said, there is not a lot of stand up happening in the area, despite its significance in the culture of the city at large. Do you have any comment on this, or on the comedy scene here in general? Do you sense any kind of emerging comedy scene in the area?

Yeah, I think as comedians keep moving here more things are going to happen in this area. There’s already a great show every Friday at Cobra Club, they have shows at Tandem Bar, and there’s now a Tuesday show at Ange Noir. I think right now Bushwick and Astoria are the two main places most New York comics live and comics are lazy and don’t like taking the train places so I expect more and more great shows in this area.

 

The next two Major Major Shows will be on June 27th and July 25th at Molasses Books, 770 Hart St.